Wicked Problems, Wolfpack Solutions

NC State invited all incoming first-year students to participate in a new online experience — Wicked Problems, Wolfpack Solutions — a special kind of multidisciplinary course. Students explored the history, biology and societal impacts of pandemics like COVID-19. And students learned how NC State faculty in many different areas are contributing to solutions to this wicked problem.

Wicked Problems, Wolfpack Solutions opened Monday, June 22, 2020, and ran for five weeks. All incoming first-year students were automatically added to the course. After successfully completing the five-week program, students earned two (2) general education credit hours at no cost. The course was not required; however, students were encouraged to take advantage of this extraordinary opportunity created just for first-year students.

The Back Story

The Wicked Problems, Wolfpack Solutions 15-member team was tasked with designing and developing a brand new five-week fully online course for nearly 5,000 incoming first-year students who would be starting in just five weeks. This was a two (2) credit hour general education course that met interdisciplinary requirements. The completed course included 38 presentations with 28 presenters (25 faculty, 1 alumnus, 1 dean, 1 chancellor) covering 37 disciplines.


The team divided the 30-plus presentations into videos (23), podcasts (10), and livestream events (5). Presenters made their own choice on the style of presentation. All presentations required pre-production preparation sessions with the presenters. Video production required more resources and time, but reducing the number of videos and the length of the videos made it possible to meet the incredibly short turn-around times. Podcasts were an effective approach for presenting content that was story-based and did not rely on visuals. The livestream events meant that the team could push production of those five presentations into the live course timeframe, freeing up pre-course time to complete videos and podcasts. This combination allowed us to create a cohesive set of content presentations.

Evaluation Findings

  • Overall, the evaluation revealed that the course successfully provided students with a sense of Wolfpack community.
    • The course aided students in understanding the importance of interdisciplinary perspectives.
    • The course also provided an initial foundation for students to understand their responsibility within our community and be a part of the solution.
    • Faculty were viewed as diverse and high caliber, improving the student learning experience.
    • Students’ mixed technology skill levels entering the course were not found to result in negative perceptions of course technology.

Related Links

Wicked Problems, Wolfpack Solutions website

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